Rare chance to get a whiff of the ‘Corpse Flower’

Rare chance to get a whiff of the ‘Corpse Flower’
San Diego Botanic Garden President Julian Duval shows off the 'Corpse Flower' to visitors on Sept. 14. Photo by Aaron Burgin

Inside of the bamboo garden at the San Diego Botanic Garden stands a plant that, for now, looks like a green missile.

In a few days, give or take, that plant will no longer be green and will be shooting off a smell that isn’t quite as deadly as a missile – but pretty close.

The plant, Amorphophallus titanium, which is best known by its nickname ‘Corpse Flower,’ is known for the stench it emits (some say it smells like a dead animal or rotten flesh) and its spectacularly fast blooming peak.

It is the first time the garden has had a corpse flower on display since 2006.

The Botanic Garden has the plant on loan from Cal State Fullerton, and Garden President and CEO Julian Duval said the plant is expected to bloom this weekend, which should draw large crowds looking forward to seeing if the plant lives up to its name.

“It’s clearly one of the real phenomena of the plant kingdom,” Duval said on Thursday. “It has these strange, unpredictable blooming intervals and it looks otherworldly.”

When it blooms, the large green spike-like pod, called a spadix, will turn yellow, and the large leaves tightly wrapped around it will bloom into beautiful magenta-colored flaps.

And the plant will begin to pulse the putrid stench, which Duval said is a pheromone that attracts dung beetles to pollinate it in the plant’s native Sumatran rain forest habitat.

The plant will only bloom for a short time — the trademark scent lasting two days at most — and the entire bloom cycle lasts less than a month.

Even before it reached its bloom, crowds were flocking to the plant to catch a glimpse at the four-foot pod.

On Thursday, sisters Barb Moore and Shari Garrett, who live in Chicago and Scripps Ranch respectively, listened as Duval explained the life cycle of the plant.

“It’s amazing, we’re really lucky to have it so close to blooming,” Garrett said.

Moore agreed.

“It’s quite a paradox when it blooms because it’s so beautiful, yet gives off such a foul smell,” Moore said. “I want to come back just to smell it.”

 

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